Does your artificial joint squeak? My knee sure does! It sort of amuses me. It's not nearly as embarrassing, goodness knows, as the dreaded socket fart. Still, I prefer my music on demand, not constant. Yet I have been unable to do a thing about it. Got any ideas?
Do NOT suggest WD40. WD40 is a solvent, not a lubricant. A solvent is likely to damage my $6,000 mechanical knee. A $26,000+ computerized knee (e.g., C-leg) could see even worse damage. Therefore, do NOT use WD40 to lubricate artificial joints or suggest that others do so. This is not just my advice; Brilliant Engineer Boyfriend and Bob the Excellent Prosthetist concur.
Also, note that we have tried oiling it. This doesn't work, either. Cleaning it works for about five minutes; then the squeak resumes. Greasing it up with machine oil and a special, pen-shaped applicator designed to deliver to tight spaces doesn't do any better.
Finally, don't suggest a cosmetic cover to keep potentially squeak-inducing schmutz out of the joint -- not to me, anyway, though some other readers might be interested. Personally, I don't think my leg is ugly. It doesn't look like any other leg I've owned, true, but it has its own high-tech beauty and will look even cooler once I finish "pimping" it. (Stay tuned for that.)
Since I don't object to the aesthetics of the current article, I don't see why I should spend buckets of my own money covering it up*, especially if such a cover would limit access to the adjustable bits of my knee. Besides, the way I treated my original right leg, and the way I treat what I still have, I can only imagine how quickly I could ruin a cosmesis. Grime and filth. Scrapes and rips. Enthusiastic kitty-love claw marks. Yikes.
Now, that said, if you know of a cover for my particular knee that is designed purely to keep crud out of the mechanism, pops on and off easily to allow access to the mechanics, and can take a beating, speak right up. And meanwhile, if you've developed some other solution that works for you, please share! I can't imagine I'm the only one with this problem.
Thanks. With your help, perhaps I can look forward to someday being able to sneak up on people again. Right now, the squeak gives me away every time.
* I no longer have health insurance, having decided after a gigantic emotional ordeal involving unpaid bills, an opaque morass of paperwork, and inadequate support from in-house staff that I'd rather have an additional six hours of my life each week than work the absolutely-not-one-minute-less-than 30 hours per week required to be granted the "free" ($3500 out-of-pocket minimum per year) insurance at my job at Whole Foods. However, even if I still had this insurance, it is my understanding that most insurance plans do not cover cosmeses. Even if my insurance plan at Whole Foods had covered a cosmesis, something I never cared to explore, there was a $50K lifetime cap on all costs related to prosthetic limbs, which would have rendered expenditure toward even an allowed cosmesis a luxury.
See, just on the one analog leg and a couple of different socket fittings, I ran through $18K in prosthetics within the first six months after my amputation. (This, incidentally, is thousands upon thousands of dollars more than I have ever spent for a car, and only a few thousand less than what my boyfriend paid for his Subaru Forester brand spanking new.) If I had gotten a computerized knee, I estimate that I would have run through about $38K in the same amount of time.**
Computerized knees wear out and have to be replaced every three years. My esteemed correspondent Bonnie, who, as I recall, was also an employee of Whole Foods and insured under the same company-offered and extremely poorly managed United HealthCare plan when she suffered her traumatic amputation, ran through her entire $50K lifetime allowance under said plan before she was ever even able to walk on her prosthesis. It was just the luck of the draw. And from what I hear, it was not an unusual draw by any means.
I've also been told that this insurance plan with its ridiculously impractical lifetime cap on prosthetic limb costs is not all that unusual anymore, and that the insurance industry has been lobbying Congress for nationwide laws protecting insurance companies from having to pay more, ever, and even allowing them to set caps even lower. This cap alone has the potential to cripple people. There is already a huge discrepancy between what is available for some people and what is available for poor vs. the working poor, and I'm talking in this country, the so-called "first world" USA, not Albania or Nicaragua.
This is a topic which makes me foam at the mouth. The truth is, without public and charitable assistance, the kind of technology you see on the Discovery Health Channel or PBS is pure fantasy for many American amputees, as are even the most basic cosmeses.
Me, I made $14K last year. I made a little bit too much money to qualify for public assistance. Yet -- through choices I made myself, I admit -- I don't have even the crappiest private insurance I've ever had anymore. It should be noted that many, many Americans are in a similar boat through no choice of their own. At the same time, with my boyfriend's currently fat salary, we are too affluent for me to ask for charity in good conscience, seeing as how there are actual poor people in this country who need the same resources more. Other people in my situation minus the boyfriend's salary would be in the position of having to go beg for help from strangers. Ostensibly, case workers and social workers in place at various health care facilities would help them obtain whatever help might be available, but this kind of assistance with complicated paperwork and navigating networks of connections is also not a resource available to just anyone and everyone in this country.
Like most Americans, we don't have tens of thousands of dollars lying around at my house, nor does anyone else in my family. If my boyfriend were to lose his job and my prosthesis were to break at the same time, I would have to go begging for help from perfect strangers, too.
Of course, this is the plight of much of the amputated world. I am better off than most of the amputated world, and many of my amputated compatriots.
So. It's a good thing for me that my boyfriend has a good job and that I like my leg the way it is, squeaks and all, isn't it?
Sure would like to do something about those squeaks, though.
** The prices I list here are what my prosthetist's office billed or that I estimate it would have billed based on its agreement with United HealthCare and informal quotes I was given at the beginning of my initial fitting process. In general in the United States, people without insurance or public assistance are billed for the same medical goods and services at a higher rate than people with insurance, because insurance companies routinely make special price deals with doctors and service providers. People who have enough money to buy medical goods and services without insurance are deemed "able to afford it." People without insurance, independent funds, or even partial public assistance are billed at the same rate as people who are "able to afford it," yet they really can't afford it, so though many strive to pay off their medical bills honorably, frequently ending up bankrupt in the process, many are never able to pay any of their expenses at all. This limits their choices, effectively crippling them.
I have been paying off the last 20% (the remaining bill after insurance kicked in its part) of my most recent $6,000 socket fitting and manufacture for nearly two years, at the rate of $50 a month, more when I can afford it, less when I can't. I expect to finally kill that bill off this April. It was generous of my prosthetist's office to make this arrangement with me, and it has been very patient about my irregular payment history. After the arrangement ends, if my nearly three-year-old artificial leg breaks or malfunctions, something it is increasingly likely to do as it ages, though probably less likely than a computerized knee, I will be on my own cost-wise, likewise if I injure myself or change shape dramatically and need to start the fitting process all over again. This kind of situation -- and far, far worse -- is a reality for many amputees around the world. What few seem to know is that it is also a reality for many amputees in the United States.